Sunday, September 30, 2007


Jim Plagakis posted an entry on his website that talked about how young, female pharmacists handle making much more money than the guys they date. It's a very interesting read, and I recommend everyone to check it out. I just figured I'd write about my experience as a young, male pharmacist who makes a lot more money than most of my friends.

I'd be lying if I told you that my primary motivating factors for finishing pharmacy school weren't the big dollar signs at the end. People talk about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw money. The company I interned with (and now work for) paid pharmacists roughly $50/hr for the time period I was on my rotations. I remember constantly sitting down and calculating my daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly salary using that hourly figure. It worked out to just over $100,000/yr.

It was a figure I almost couldn't even imagine. For my 6 years in college, I felt like I was rich if I had $700 in my bank account. Making that amount of money in just a little over a day of work blew my mind. My friends, most of whom graduated with 4 year degrees and were just starting to get jobs when I was getting ready to finish my 6 years, were talking about making $40-50 grand per year. I would be making more than double that.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but I bragged about it. Not a lot, mind you, but probably just enough where most of my friends knew how much more money I'd be making than them. When I finally got licensed and started getting my pharmacist salary, I was eager to show everyone the brand new $30,000 car I bought. I didn't mean to shove it in their faces. I just wanted people to check out my car because I liked it a lot.

The extra money allowed me to take part in things I didn't normally do because of my previous conservative spending ways. I started sitting in for weekly poker games, in which the buy-in was $40. Most of my friends I played with were making $12-15 per hour. With $40 buy-ins, $40 rebuys, and some pots getting in the hundred of dollars range, this was a lot of money for these guys to be gambling. I'd go to the card game and drop $40 on a hand without even thinking about it. After all, that wasn't even an hour's pay for me.

It wasn't long before a few of my not-so-close friends started referring to me as "Moneybags" because I made so much more money than everyone else. This is when I realized that I needed to stop even giving people any idea of the kind of money I made as a pharmacist.

Now, being a realist, I know that making $100,000 per year doesn't make me filthy rich. It makes me comfortable as a single guy. I can't afford a really really nice house or a BMW 7-series. I can't go out and spend $3,000 on a watch or a suit. However, compared to my friends, I'm rolling in dough. I don't think I have one friend that even makes half of my salary.

Therefore, the money occasionally seems to be a point of contention with my friends, and it hasn't helped make me even the least bit more desirable to women (not that I really think it should). Not that I'm ready to give away my salary, but sometimes I wish I had a job where I made a lot less. At least then, I wouldn't feel so different than the rest of the people my age.

I kind of lost my initial chain of thought midway through this post, so I'm going to stop now...

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I have a confession to make

I know this sounds crazy, and it certainly seems to go against the popular opinion of pharmacist bloggers. However, I must admit that I actually like retail pharmacy.

I'll give you a minute to process what I just said.... In fact, I'll even say it again in case you didn't get it the first time. I like retail pharmacy. Honestly, I do.

I didn't like it initially. In fact, I hated working in retail ever since I started as an intern in 2004 up until the end of last year after I got licensed. I used to complain, and rightfully so, that retail pharmacy had nothing to do with what I learned in pharmacy school. In fact, I would have been just as prepared to be a retail pharmacist if I went to pharmacy technician classes instead of pharmacy school. As I stated in a previous post, you don't need to know a whole lot about drugs to be a retail pharmacist. 90% of the questions you get asked can be answered with tylenol, benadryl, or senna + docusate.

It took me a while to come to grips with the fact that I would never use most of the drug information I learned. This was hard for me to accept because I was an exceptional student. Coming out of school, my knowledge base was as good or better than anyone in my class. Plus, I had good problem solving abilities, and I had (and still have) a talent for being able to explain things in simpler terms that patients can understand.

I was going to do a residency. I had gotten my applications together and got a couple letters of recommendation from my preceptors. One of my preceptors pretty much said I was the best student she had ever had on her rotation, and she all but begged me to do my residency at her site. I ended up abandoning the residency idea after going to my school's "interview day" (which is pretty much a day when representatives from all the chain stores and local hospitals come to your school and tell you how much money they want to pay you to work for them). It was just impossible for me, a broke college kid, to turn away from the 6-figure salaries of retail.

While I loved the money, my pride was hurt because I knew that a lot of lesser students in my class were going to do residencies, and they would be looked at as the "smart" pharmacists and drug information experts. Then I heard which students got the residency positions to which I was going to apply, and it really bothered me knowing that I would have been 1,000x better than any of them in that position.

You can tell that it still bothers me a bit, but it doesn't bring me down like it used to. Basically, I had a change of mindset that allowed me to get beyond this. I stopped worrying about being respected by my clinical pharmacy peers. Now, the only thing I worry about is how I'm perceived by our customers and my coworkers. There's this notion that clinical pharmacy is an exclusive area that not every pharmacist has the ability to do successfully. Well, the same is true of retail pharmacy. Not every pharmacist is capable of handling the rigors and tress of retail. I can. Most of my preceptors, who were supposed to be these great leaders for the profession of pharmacy, could not. What actually separates me from them is that I could just as easily have done either clinical or retail. I choose to stay in retail, because in the end, I like it better.

Yes, asshole customers suck. However, there aren't really all that many assholes out there. We just tend to remember them more than the nice ones. Generally though, I like my days in the pharmacy. I like the fact that we're really busy, so 10 or 12 hour shifts just fly right by. I like having 3 days off per week. I like thinking of ways to better organize the workflow, so that my day goes by more smoothly. I like figuring out the glitches in our computer software that no one else can.

So call me crazy, but I actually like my job.

Posting drunk

So, I just got back from going to the bar with a bunch of friends. After 3 beers, 2 Long Island Ice Teas, 2 strong Jack and Cokes, and an Alabama Slammer, I can safely say I'm a little drunk. I don't get drunk very often, and when I do, my personality doesn't really change at all. I just get stomach sick and less coordinated. Perhaps, I loosen up a little bit, but not enough to do something out of character.

In any case... While I was there, this really cute girl was sitting with a couple friends in a booth no more than 10 feet away from our table. She had a really pretty smile, nice hair, nice eyes, and just very pleasing to the eyes overall. She kept looking over at our table and specifically looking at me. I knew she was looking at me. She knew I was looking at her. She was just sitting there waiting for me to go over and talk to her. Her and her friends sipped their last drink for like an hour just waiting.

Did I ever go over? No, of course not. Why? Because I have no balls. Now, I know that a bar isn't the greatest place to meet women, but I'm pretty sure just by the way this girl presented herself that she wasn't some slutty girl just looking to hook up with someone. She seemed genuinely nice... at least from what I could discern by looking at her. Even if I was wrong, what harm could have come from just going over, talking to her, buying her a drink, maybe asking if she wanted to dance? I had nothing to lose. Hell, I would have probably been the best guy she could have met in that entire bar, at least from the point of view of respectability.

In a nutshell, that's why I sit home alone on weekends instead of having a girl to go out with. I'm too afraid to make that first move, even though I know exactly the right things to say and the right way to act. The girl tonight was so pretty and had such a sweet smile. Even one of my friends was telling me that she looked like she wanted someone to go over and talk to her. We were making eye contact with each other all night. All those things weren't enough for me, so instead of getting to know some pretty girl, I spent the night getting drunk with a bunch of guys.
I've been truly single for a little less than a year now. I say "truly single" because for the whole year after my ex and I broke up, I thought we would get back together, so I didn't even consider dating anyone else. So, in that 10 or 11 months, I've had exactly 3 dates, none of which were with girls I was even remotely interested in. It's perplexing that I, a decent looking, smart, caring guy with a well-paying job, hardly have any attention from the opposite sex. I keep telling myself that all I have to do is put myself back in the dating pool, and I'll, at the very least, be able to get some dates.

Once again though, it's a friday night, and I'm home alone, and other than that pretty girl from the bar, the only thing I can think of is how I wish I was still with my ex. Drug Monkey told me once that someday I'll just wake up and not care if she's dead or alive, and it will be the greatest feeling in the world. It's been almost a year, and I'm still waiting for that day. I hope it comes soon so the next time I'm at the bar and some pretty girl with pretty eyes and a pretty smile is looking at me, I'll have the cajones to say something to her.

Monday, September 24, 2007

I need to learn my crap

One thing that has been made abundantly clear in the last few months is that I know next to nothing about treating constipation. This creates a problem because it seems like every freaking question I get asked is what to use to make someone shit.

The only thing I know about laxatives is that every person receiving opioid pain relievers should be on senna and docusate. Other than that, I have no idea when to use an enema as opposed to miralax. I don't know whether miralax works better than mineral oil. And where the hell does bisacodyl fit in all this.

I can tell you how the laxatives work. I just have no idea when to use one over any of the others. Moreover, I never understood this whole obsession with bowel movements. Maybe I've just never had a problem moving my bowels. I don't know. Whatever it is, it seems like people are obsessed about being "regular," whatever the hell that means.

I'm just sick of all these constipation questions. Why can't someone ask me about their beta blocker or ACE inhibitor? I know that stuff. I've had a million classes and rotations that deal with them. I think I had one 50 minute class on constipation in my entire time in pharmacy school. I'm not adequately prepared to talk to people about their shitting habits.

While we're on the subject of questions I hate.... I hate it when a parent comes to me and asks me for advice on what medicine to give their 2 year old who has a cold. I know that dimetapp or triaminic will help. I know that the doctor is going to tell them to get one of those products. However, because of the labeling on the box, I can't recommend them without a doctor's approval. See, the labeling for antihistamines says to consult a doctor in children under 6 years old. The labeling for phenylephrine (a decongestant that may or may not work) has no dosing for children under 12. Even though I can find the proper dosing for any antihistamine product, I can't give out that dosing information without a doctor's approval because that falls under the category of prescribing, which is something pharmacists can't do.

Actually, now that I think about it, I almost never get asked a question I'm comfortable answering. I often get asked by older people what to use for arthritis. Now, I know most pharmacists would quickly point them in the direction of the ibuprofen or naproxen. I, on the otherhand, think about how NSAIDs aren't particularly great drugs in the elderly population due to the risk of GI bleeds as well as studies that have shown NSAIDs actually increase the risk of falls in the eldrly. I usually recommend against NSAIDs in patients 65 or older unless recommended by a physician. If I'm forced to give an answer, I'll recommend tylenol. "But I've tried tylenol and it doesn't help!", they say. The only thing I can tell them is to talk to a doctor.

Same thing with OTC sleepaids. I don't recommend tylenol PM, Simply Sleep, or any of those antihistamine sleepaids to many people and certiainly never to older people. If a relatively young person has trouble falling asleep every once in a while, I'll tell them to try some benadryl, but only if they're going to use it occasionally. In older people, antihistamines like diphenhydramine (benadryl) and doxylamine have too many anticholinergic side effects to recommend. People are almost never satisfied with this answer.

Cough and cold meds: We all know that dextromethorphan does absolutely nothing to suppress coughs, so even though I do recommend Delsym and Robitussin DM regularly, I do so knowing that they don't really work. Furthermore, guaifenisen (Mucinex) has never been shown to do much of anything to break up congestion, but it's still out there being marketed for it. How can I not recommend the product if it says "RELIEVES CHEST CONGESTION" right on the box.

In any case, I have today off after working Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I'm going to watch some baseball, drink a couple Sam Adams' Octoberfests, and just generally relax for the next couple of days before I have to go back to work Wednesday.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

My once promising future...

What seems like ages ago (really only a little more than 10 years), I used to be a pretty good basketball player. In fact, I was better than pretty good. I could do things on a basketball court that pretty much no one else my age could do.

I started playing basketball when I was 7 years old. I didn't seem to have much natural ability. I wasn't immediately one of the best players. However, that all changed when I watched the movie Pistol Pete: Birth of a Legend for the first time. It was a story about Pistol Pete Maravich's first year playing on his high school team. That movie, for better or worse, changed my life forever.

I watched in awe as the actor who played the young Pistol Pete dribbled the ball through his legs, around his back, threw around the back passes, between the leg passes, spun the basketball on his finger, and did all the things that made Pistol Pete famous. I must have watched the movie 1,000 times, and I spent literally hours every single day just practicing the dribbling, passing, and ballhandling drills I saw in the movie.

I was 9 years old when this obsession began. During this time, my basketball skills grew exponentially. Meanwhile, my social skills went to waste. I didn't chase around girls at recess. I didn't play games with my classmates. I dribbled a basketball. I dribbled to the bus stop. I dribbled every second of recess. I dribbled back home from the bus stop. I dribbled up and down my driveway for hours when I got out of school. The basketball became a part of me. All my hopes and dreams revolved around that ball. It not only became a part of my identity, but it actually took over my entire identity.

Needless to say, with that much time spent practicing my ballhandling, I far surpassed EVERYONE my age. I didn't get the courage to use one of my "fancy" dribbles in a game until I was 11 years old. By that age, I had practiced so much that it had become second nature to me, so in one game where a kid tried to reach for the ball to steal it from me while I was in the backcourt, I just quickly put the ball behind my back and discarded the defender like he wasn't even there. I remember feeling shocked that I actually did that in a game. However, that shock quickly faded into the realization that I was completely ready to showcase my talents.

From that point on, I put on a show in rec leagues that a lot of parents will remember to this day. Kids from other schools who I never met knew about me. Word spread around the league that there was this little guard who can dribble a basketball like no one else.

There's this one game in particular that always stands out in my memory. I was in 7th grade at the time. We were playing against the best team in the league. This team had a guard on it that was supposedly the best defensive player in the town. He could shut down anyone supposedly. Well, it took about 5 minutes for the whole gym to realize that he never played against anyone like me. Every time he reached for the ball, I'd leave him behind with a between the legs crossover. I'd set him up going one way then quickly put the ball behind my back to get passed him. I'd bait him to reach for the ball and double clutch crossover to go by him. I could do whatever I wanted with the ball, and there was nothing he could do. It came down to the last 3 minutes of the game, and we were hanging on to a slim lead. My coach told me to basically keep the ball and make them foul me, so I'd have to shoot freethrows (I was an excellent freethrow shooter). Well, I spent the next 3 minutes dribbling around double teams, going between my legs and behind my back all over the court while they desperately tried to get the ball from me. They never could, and we won that game.

Playing on my middle school team brought similar acclaim for me. I was a one man press breaker. We didn't even work on how to break presses. The only thing we worked on was how to get me the ball, so I could dribble through it. I was a little guy, but players were afraid to guard me. I remember one coach put a player in and told him to try to cover me full court. The player went to the coach, "I can't guard him. He's too fast."

I come from a predominantly white town, and we entered our team into an inner city league that was predominantly black. The first team we ever played in that league was this all black, super athletic team that thought they could full court press the white boys out of the gym. I dribbled through their press I think 6 or 7 times in a row before the coach decided it obviously wasn't going to work. He then put a player in the game that the whole team knew as "Speedy" (obviously because of his speed). His job was to follow me everywhere I went on the court. To put it simply, I made "Speedy" look pretty bad. After the game, even players on my own team were pretty impressed saying to me, "Mike (I wasn't Pharmacy Mike back then), you were too fast for "Speedy."

My coach at the time was a guy who coached Middle School and High School basketball in some of the most talented areas of the country. He was now in my area because he moved there with his son. He coached his son's teams whenever he could, and I happen to play for on his son's basketball team. He used to tell people, "I've seen a lot of really good guards in the years that I've coached and played basketball, but I've NEVER seen anyone like Mike."

I won MVP awards, Most Outstanding Player awards, All-Tournament Team awards, awards for having the most potential, free throw shooting contests... you name an award, I got it. So you might ask yourself, if I was so good at basketball, then why the hell did I not become a high school and college star? Why did the accolades stop once high school began? What happened?

I'll tell you what happened.... All the time spent living and breathing basketball alienated me from my classmates. With a basketball in my hands, I was king. Without a basketball, I was so painfully shy that I wasn't able to talk to a girl without shaking like a leaf until my sophomore year of high school. The realization that basketball was the reason I was socially undeveloped compared to kids my age devestated me. It made me hate the game I had loved for most of my childhood. However, no matter how much I resented the game for what it made me, I couldn't escape it. Afterall, it was my entire identity. Therefore, I continued to play, except I didn't enjoy it anymore. I stopped practicing. I developed a major confidence problem, and while I was a decent player in high school, I never became the star that I was capable of being. I wilted under pressure from my teammates and coaches. I shut down emotionally on and off the court.

My schoolwork never suffered because school was always ridiculously easy for me. However, every other part of my life did. I'm still recovering from it to this day. It seems like such a long time ago, but the disappointment and regret is right there under the surface. I've made great strides to get back to near social normalcy. I'm proud that I'm a pharmacist not because pharmacy school was difficult to pass. I'm proud because being a pharmacist is a position of leadership, and the fact that I've come so far to be able to competently lead a pharmacy by myself on a Saturday when I'll fill 300+ scripts with only a few clerks and no actual pharmacy technicians is nothing short of amazing to me. Ten years ago, I wouldn't have thought it possible.

Even still, I can't help but think back and wonder what if I had spent less time with basketball and more time doing the normal things kids do. Maybe I wouldn't be sitting here typing this at 25 years old only having had 1 serious relationship (albeit a 6 year relationship) and only 2 or 3 people I can consider good friends. Maybe I wouldn't be a pharmacist. Maybe I'd be a doctor or have some other very important job where I can actually help to make a difference in the world.

I continue to wake up every morning, go to work, come home, only to wake up again to do it all over again..... and again, and again, and again. I think the only thing that keeps me going is the hope that one day, I'll get the opportunity to showcase all of the abilities of the person I know I can be, but have always been too afraid. I think it might be like that first behind the back dribble. Just one day without even thinking, I'll do or say something that lets my abilities and personality shine, and from that point on, I'll be able to live without my senseless inhibitions.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

And things were going so well...

The day was going well. We never fell behind all day. No one had to wait more than 15 minutes for a prescription. We didn't have a single customer complaint. Even Betty (horrible pharmacist) and Laura (recently licensed pharmacist) were getting along without incident (and they LOATH each other). I had the order for the store done and ready to be sent by 7:00 PM when my shift ended. I kept thinking, "Today is the day I'm going to get out on time."

The Pharmacy gods (not to be confused with The Pharmacy God) wouldn't allow it though. At 6:45, our data lines, which allow us to transmit claims to insurance companies, went down. The work flow came to a grinding halt. Because I'm such a great guy (read: idiot/glutten for punishment), I stayed late so that when the computers came back online, we'd be able to catch up.

Well... the computers never came back up, at least not by just after 8:00 when I finally decided to leave. I basically stayed over an hour late for nothing. The only good thing is that I don't have to work tomorrow, so I don't have to deal with the stuff we couldn't do tonight.

One thing of note from today... I've become the King of Customer Service. I have a knack for being overly helpful to people without sounding fake. Our pharmay manager is all about customer service, but he comes off sounding really fake. His tone of voice gets softer and slightly higher pitch. He breaks out the "yes, sir" and "no, sir," and makes sure to be excessively polite to everyone. I sound much more genuine than he does.

Every day it seems, I get customers coming in and thanking me for being so patient while helping them. My fellow employees have also commented on my incredible patience. I find this amazing considering I've never ever been a patient person. I'm the kind of person that needs everything done right away. I get mad when I go to see a show that and it starts 5 minutes later than it was supposed to. I hate things that waste my time. Yet at work, I somehow manage to keep outwardly cool while on the inside, I just want to kill someone or break something or kill someone while I break something.

Like I said, my coworkers comment about how I'm so patient when I answer questions or deal with people with complaints. I always ask them, "What else can I do?" If someone asks a question, should I just ignore them? If someone has a complaint, should I tell them to fuck off? Maybe Betty would, but I try to be the complete antithesis of Betty. Seriously though... What can you do? I have to be polite to people. If I know I can help someone, even if it takes 15 minutes of time that I don't really have, I have to help the person. Even if I can't stand the person I'm helping, even if it's something I absolutely hate doing (i.e. sitting on hold with an insurance company for 20 minutes), it's my job. I don't do these things out of the goodness of my heart. I do them because I'm obligated to.

Alright... enough rambling. Time for bed.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Why can't they look like her?

Why can't one of the 40+ year old women who tell me I'm cute and half flirt with me look like her????

Did you know Julianne Moore is almost 47 years old? Is there a better looking 47 year old in the entire world? Her and Diane Lane top my personal list of hottest women over the age of 40.

Just look at that picture. She's the epitome of sexy, and I usually don't care too much for redheads. I tell you, if a 47 year old woman who looked that good told me I was cute, I'd totally go for it. I wouldn't care that she was over 20 years older than me.

Alas... neither Julianne Moore nor Diane Lane will ever visit my pharmacy. I guess I'll just have to make-do with the vicodin addicts and women with BMI's over 30.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Relay Calls

It was the Tuesday after a holiday, so the craziness came in bunches today. Hence, this is my second post.

Have any of you pharmacy professionals out there had the pleasure of receiving a relay call? For those that don't know, a relay call allows deaf people to communicate by telephone. They place a call to a relay operator, and type him what they want to say to us. The relay operator, reads the deaf person's words to us, and then relays what we say back to the deaf person by typing it.

I realize that this is an important and necessary service that allows deaf people to make telephone calls. However, it is the most frustrating form of communication. Every sentence takes forever because someone has to type it. The conversation can never have any flow. You can't interrupt the other in mid sentence, so even if they just completely misunderstood what you told them, you have to wait the 2 minutes to get their response.

Pharmacy-related conversations are also very difficult to relay. For one, relay operators don't know drug names. Therefore, they constantly have to pause to ask you how to spell the name of the drug. Plus, it's just really awkward talking to one person, but having to address someone else entirely. I keep saying things like "tell her the insurance won't cover it for another 2 days," instead of addressing her directly.

Anyway... we have 2 customers we receive relay calls from, and unfortunately, they're two of the biggest pains in the ass we have. One of them is always asking for early refills...ON EVERYTHING! In the past 3 months, she's gone from restoril, to vicodin, and now she's on Talwin. Her MO is that she stays with a doctor until he realizes she perfectly fits the criteria of drug-seeking behavior, then she moves on to the next doctor who writes her something else.

I would call her a one of those controlled substance addicts, except for one thing..... She does thes same thing with all her meds!!! She asks for her Naproxen prescription as if the stuff is heroine. She brought in a 30 day supply of Naprosyn 500mg, and then the next day, she brought us another script for Anaprox DS (which is naproxen 550mg). After explaining to her that they'll practically the same thing, she wanted to know how long it was unil I could fill the Anaprox for her.

Another time, she showed up in the afternoon looking to pick up her naproxen script. It showed it was done in the computer, but we couldn't find it in the bin. We spent 5 minutes tearing the place apart looking it. Just when I was ready to just fill the thing again, I decided to see if someone had picked it up (maybe it was given to the wrong person by accident). Guess what? She had picked the script up 5 hours earlier. She signed for it herself. When I asked her about this, she said she knew she picked it up, but wanted to know when it could be filled again. And that's fucking Naproxen. Nobody has ever got high off naproxen. If you take too much of that stuff, the only thing you get is a bad stomach ache and maybe an ulcer.

Today was one those Naproxen days. She called 6 times via relay looking for her naproxen script that the doctor was supposed to have called in. Meanwhile, 30 minutes after each call, her doctor's office would leave a prescription for her on our voice mail for Talwin. Everytime she called, I kept telling her that I think her doctor's office is confused because they keep calling in the same prescription for Talwin over and over again saying that the patient called and told them the pharmacy never got the prescription.

At the end of the day, they never did call in her naproxen, which would have been roughly 15 days too early anyway. I think altogether, her 6 relay calls probably took up 45 minutes of my time... on a Tuesday... after a holiday.... when we filled over 600 prescriptions.

Word of warning: Relay operators are required by law to type everything you say during a relay call. I didn't realize this until about a month ago when I started to say something, changed my mind, and asked the relay operator to tell her something else intead. The relay operator told me she had to type whatever I said. Therefore, if you get a relay call and think that you can make a smart ass or, in any way, derogatory remark to the relay caller about the person on the other end, just know that the operator is technically required to type what you say. Whether he does or not depends on how strictly this particularly operator adheres to the law. In any case, better safe than sorry. If you must make a comment about the caller, wait until you hang up the phone before doing so.

A Tale of Two Transfers

Today, I had to call on 2 transfers from two different pharmacies within the same chain (CVS).

First Call:

Me: "Hi, this is Pharmacy Mike calling from busy chain pharmacy for a transfer. The RX number is 123456."

Pharmacist: "For John Doe? Atenolol 5omg. #30. 1 tab daily. 2 refills remaining. Original date 2/11/07. Last filled 8/2/07. Dr. Bob Kelso. Are your initials PM?"

Me: "Yes, and you're initials?"

Pharmacist: "MR"

Me: "That's all I need. Thanks."

Total call time spent talking to the pharmacist was less than a minute. Short, easy. Exactly the way it should be.

Now, let us contrast this with the second call for a transfer:

Me: "Hi, this is Pharmacy Mike calling from busy chain pharmacy looking for a transfer. I don't have the RX number, but the patient's name is Jane Doe, and she's looking for her birth control."

Pharmacist: "OK... hold on." (3 minutes go by, and I hear is rapid typing in the background)

Me: "Hello? You still there?"

Pharmacist: "Hello?"

Me: "Did you find the patient in the computer?"

Pharmacist: "Yes, it has 2 refills left."

Me: "What has 2 refills left?"

Pharmacist: "The prescription has 2 refills left."

Me: "I don't know what the prescription is. The patient just asked for her birth control transferred. I dont' know which birth control she takes."

Pharmacist: "Ortho tricyclen... hold on..... .. . . . . . .. . . .................... It's ortho tricyclen. 3 packs at a time, with 6 refills on it."

Me: (thinking we're finally getting somewhere) "What's the doctor's name, original date, and date of last fill?"

Pharmacist: "Dr. John Dorian. Original Date 4/1/07. Last filled 8/1/07. "

Me: "Wait, are they too early? Did they get 3 packs on 8/1/07?"

Pharmacist: "No... 1 pack at a time"

Me: "So wait... are there 6 packs left on the script or 6 refills on the 3 packs?"

Pharmacist: (Long pause) "6 refills, so this time with 480 tablets remaining."

Me: "So where the hell did you get the 2 from initially? .... Nevermind... so, it's basically PRN refills?"

Pharmacist: "Yes"

Me: Alright... (I got initials and finally hung up).

OK... now I know that I made things a little more difficult the second time by not having the prescription number. However, this should add 20 seconds to the conversation at the absolute most. All they have to do is search for the patient by name and then check the profile for her birth control. It isn't all that complicated!

The thing I just don't get about it is that the two different pharmacists both worked for CVS, so it's not like you can blame the software for making it complicated. There's no other explanation other than the second pharmacist was an absolute moron. Seriously, what is so fucking hard about reading the information off a computer screen??? Moreover, how in holy hell did he go from telling me there were 2 refills originally to having it be 6 refills (1+5 for a whopping 480 tablets left on the script after we fill it)? Did he not even look at the profile at first? And if that was the case, then why the fuck did it take him 5 minutes just to take a wild guess at how many refills were left?

I guess the most plausible explanation for this is that the guy was one of those pharmacists who float from store to store and do nothing but check scripts all day. He probably had no idea how to use the software, so it took him 5 minutes just figuring out how to bring up a patient by name.

By the way... Yes, it's true people... If you're pharmacy is one of those big chains like CVS or Walgreens, you've probably had a prescription filled by a pharmacist that barely knows what he's doing. Walgreens and CVS open up so many stores so quickly that they don't have enough pharmacists to adequately staff them. Therefore, they have to borrow pharmacists from temp agencies or employ a ton of newly hired floaters that have yet to be properly trained. Since the technicians at Walgreens and CVS generally have superior training to other pharmacies, the pharmacy can get away with the pharmacist having nothing but the most basic knowledge of the software and general store operations. As long as they can read a pharmacy label and compare it to a prescription, they're good enough to fill 400-500 scripts per day without another pharmacist.

It's scary for customers, and it's freaking infuriating for pharmacists to try to pry any information from them. I forgot to mention that a lot of time, they don't speak English well.

Oh... the joys of this profession.